Starting the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, it’s minhag of the klal to blow shofar every weekday morning, after Shacharis.
When I was younger, I heard from many a rebbe that the shofar was a clarion call; an alarm to wake our sleeping minds in time for the Days of Awe, just mere weeks away. A few mornings ago, while sitting in shul, listening to the baal tokea, a thought struck me, completely changing the way I view this kli mitzvah, and I felt an obligation to share.
Very often when someone is compelled to admit a wrongdoing, they do so quietly, avoiding eye contact, filled with shame. This is healthy; to err is human, to admit it? Not so much. We consider ourselves to be good people, and when we realize that we are as capable as the next person of committing an inequity or mistake, we don’t want to announce it to the world, but rather, with a whisper, be yotzei, and get on with our lives.
However, during the Yomim Noraim, Hashem expects us to demonstrate a certain amount of bravery. He desires an assured and audible statement of culpability—“Avinu Malkeinu, Chatanu L’fanecha!”—but also understands this is not an easy goal to meet.
One of the more uplifting aspects about teshuva and the dynamics of the bein adom l’makom relationship, is the belief that if we put in a small amount of sincere effort, Hashem will do the rest.
Enter the shofar.
Before the baal tokea begins blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, he recites Min Hametzar Karasi Kah, the simple translation of which is “from a narrow place I call out to Hashem.”
Yes, the shofar is a LOUD instrument, and no doubt a wonderful shock to the system. But what we overlook is that, like many other wind instruments, the mouth of shofar is small, narrow and insignificant in comparison to the subsequent blast that emerges from the other side.
We now can start to see the shofar as something more: a vehicle for our limited, hesitant and very human admissions to be transformed into thunderous, shameless and pure declarations of responsibility and remorse.
In this light, the shofar is yet another kindness bestowed upon us from Hakadosh Baruch Hu, because, when all is said and done, this simple horn, acting as an equalizer, allows us to achieve greater heights with our viduy—no matter how enthusiastically we can deliver them.
May we muster the strength to own up and admit to our chesronos—in our own ways—and merit for our slates to be wiped clean. Shana Tova and a Gut Yor!
Yehuda Schupper is director of communications for New York State Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein. He lives in Hillside, New Jersey with his wife and four children, and can be reached by emailing [email protected]